ORLANDO, Fla. - Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein and his staff headed into a meeting with agent Scott Boras last night as good listeners.
There was no need to jump feetfirst into the Alex Rodriguez sweepstakes. Not when you're the World Series champions and already have a stacked roster.
Much as Boras had met with the Mets the night before about his client, the agent was ready to make a Boston-specific Rodriguez presentation to the Sox' brass, complete with charts and graphs on the revenue streams associated with the third baseman.
Epstein didn't want to create "Sox woo A-Rod" headlines, because the team did not seek out Boras. Rather, it was Boras making his pitch to one of the big-market teams that can afford Rodriguez.
"We went over all of our client list with them," said Boras last night. "I'll let them talk about the four-letter word [A-Rod]."
Boras, who said his meeting with the Red Sox lasted more than an hour, met with several teams and will meet with a few today before the meetings wrap up.
Boras's timing wasn't bad. After all, the Red Sox have not yet made an official commitment to bringing back third baseman Mike Lowell, who is also a free agent.
Though conversations have been ongoing between the Sox and Lowell's agents, the Lev inson brothers, Epstein indicated last night an agreement with Lowell at the meetings is highly unlikely.
Sam Levinson, when asked how talks with Epstein went yesterday said, "Great. But nothing to report." Epstein used words such as "hopeful" and "progress" in describing the talks.
According to major league sources, the Red Sox are willing to go three years on the 33-year-old Lowell.
In the meantime, the Sox are listening to other teams, including the Florida Marlins, who are peddling third baseman Miguel Cabrera in the hopes of landing prospects. The Sox like Cabrera, but may like him more as a first baseman.
Epstein certainly has heard the anti-A-Rod sentiment around Boston, but he also understands the magnitude of the player. Epstein always has enjoyed dialogue with Boras, who is the most prepared and thorough agent in the business. Boras's last client to opt out of a contract prior to Rodriguez was J.D. Drew, who left a five-year, $55 million deal with the Dodgers after two seasons, and signed a five-year, $70 million deal with Boston.
What Boras wants is to come out of any talks with a significant raise for his client.
Any team entering into talks with Boras - a list including the Mets, Angels, and Dodgers, with a possible sleeper in the Tigers - understands it will have to pay top dollar, but it will pay for a significant player, one of the most feared righthanded hitters in the game.
Rodriguez has told friends he'd love to play in Boston, where he would be teammates with good friend Manny Ramírez, with whom he works out in the offseason in Florida.
Epstein went into the meeting, which was scheduled for 9 p.m., with an open mind. If the contract numbers remain as crazy as have been reported (in the $350 million range), there's likely no chance the Red Sox would enter the A-Rod market. They would sign Lowell, if he agrees to come back on their terms. If Lowell won't, the Sox could move Gold Glove first baseman Kevin Youkilis to third and acquire a first baseman.
A-Rod or no A-Rod, Epstein doesn't worry about tinkering too much with a championship team. While the 2004 Sox lost Pedro Martínez and Derek Lowe, among others, they were able to acquire draft picks for their free agents, which turned into significant players such as Clay Buchholz and Dustin Pedroia.
"I think there's a realization in baseball that if you try to keep things the same, it will change on you anyway," said Epstein. "Players age and players change, chemistry changes, payroll structures change. Better to be proactive and try to find the right mix for now and in the future, rather than let it happen to you."
Epstein said in the afternoon that he was going to meet with Boras "to talk about [Eric] Gagné and his whole list of free agents. He's not a great fit for our bullpen right now, but I wouldn't rule anything out."
Boras, who also represents Jason Varitek, might explore a contract extension for the 35-year-old catcher, who has one year remaining on his deal.
Mets GM Omar Minaya has listened to Boras about Rodriguez, but would have to do some maneuvering to get A-Rod on the team. Minaya would have to move third baseman David Wright to second or trade shortstop Jose Reyes. It seems far-fetched, but not impossible.
The Angels are in desperate need of a bat and GM Tony Reagins has expressed an interest in Rodriguez. With Joe Torre now managing the Dodgers, he may push owner Frank McCourt to open the purse strings.
Epstein is certainly dealing from a position of strength. The Sox produce a lot of revenue and have a lucrative regional sports network.
There are no more seats to sell. Therefore, the lure of A-Rod would be more about the huge numbers he could put up at Fenway Park.
Epstein also said several teams have inquired about center fielder Coco Crisp's availability.
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.